Tuesday, February 26, 2019

The Ohto Uni Returning Duet

Here is the latest addition to the collection, the Ohto Piston Sharp SP-5. My birthday present to me :)
ohto piston sharp mechanical pencil

uni returns mechanical pencil

I first read of the Ohto Piston Sharp mechanical pencil in a Reddit post by 2nd_Astronaut. It immediately reminded of my Uni Returns M5-318 pencil. Unfortunately the Uni Returns has not fared well over the years. The elastomer grip is a sticky yucky mess. I have to store it wrapped in aluminium cooking foil to stop it contaminating its neighbours, and would have Kondo'ed the pencil long ago if it weren't for the unique mechanism. Well, after seeing the Piston Sharp I got on the sat-phone to contact 2nd in his space station and now I own another mechanical pencil with a returns mechanism, this time a much higher grade model, one that should last and not require aluminium foil... except of course for my hat which keeps the alien mind-control radio-waves at bay. The SP-5 I now have is metal and plastic, but there is also an SP-10 which is all metal.

So, to explain, the unique thing about this mechanism is that it both advances and retracts the lead via an otherwise normal push top ratchet mechanism. You do a small push or click to advance the lead, and a longer or bigger push or click to retract the lead. The Ohto Piston Sharp has clear markings on the barrel to indicate this - calling them Half Knock and Full Knock.
ohto sp-5 pencil mechanism

Once you understand the concept its not too hard to control the amount you push, and both pencils do have a partial resistance stop at the halfway point that you can feel.

The Uni Returns advances more lead per click than the Ohto Piston Sharp, so the Uni retraction mechanism will retract back 4 click advances worth of lead whilst the Ohto will retract back 3 clicks of lead.

Now, I'm sure this retraction mechanism must be patented by the inventor, so its use by two competing companies raises some questions. Did Ohto make the Returns for Uni? More likely I imagine would be that the inventor works for an OEM/ODM manufacturer which made both the Ohto and the Uni. Or the inventor has licensed both to use the patent. Or...???

The pocket clip attachment on the Piston Sharp is two spot welds to the body. Not particularly awe inspiring or aesthetically pleasing. But still, I am very glad to have added the Piston Sharp to the collection. Thanks 2nd.

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Birthday Giveaway - Jeopardy

The rules around a tie have changed. You can choose the same number as someone else if you want.

Over in the sidebar is my Jeopardy game.

The number has usually been going down since I started reducing the collection. Here's the monthly numbers

March = 741
April = 711
May = 655
June = 625
July = 625
August = 605
September = 589
October = 544
November = 542
December = 547
January = 551

What will the end-February number be? Leave a comment on this post before 27-Feb stating what you think the number will be. The closest to it is the winner. If there is a tie then I will randomly select the winner. You must check back here on 2 March to see who the winner is, and then you must contact me. Blogger does not save your details so I cannot contact you, you must check here and contact me.

Here's what you win.
A brand new Zebra DelGuard Type-LX (0.3mm), a 'new old stock' Uni Alpha-Gel HD (0.5mm) and a 'new old stock' Sheaffer Javelin (0.7mm).

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Lead Display

I have accumulated a few kilometers of lead over the years and decided that my leads should have their day in the sun too. So here's a few - some old, some new.
mechanical pencil lead display

From the back row to the front, left to right.

pentel blue leads
Pentel blue leads. The first is just 'color leads', the second has a blue band and says blue but the third is black band and says blue. Modern Ain and Ain Stein.

pilot mechanical pencil leads

Some old Pilot. Does the second from left container look familiar? The Neo-Xu and Eno are the same containers just relabeled. Colour coded tops by diameter.

pilot leads

I like the yellow container with its little window. Ecomate and BeGreen, more relabeling.

staedtler mechanical pencil lead refills

Good old Staedtler. The bulk injector dispenser holds 40 leads. Then Mars Micrograph 'Super Hi Polymer'... sounding a bit Pentel-ish there. Then  just 'Super' and finally 'Carbon'. 
Up above I asked if that Pilot container looked familiar. At first glance the Pilot container looks identical, but upon close inspection it is merely exceptionally similar, clearly someone is copying someone.

Tuesday, February 05, 2019

Diplomat Aero Mechanical Pencil Review

Diplomat Aero Mechanical Pencil Review

I very much enjoy reading Pencil Ponder blog by Martha. One of the things I especially like is how many of her posts have some personal family connection to the subject pencil at hand, and I have long envied that. I am currently in thirteenth birthday mode, surely an auspicious time for a personal connection post, so with that in mind, here’s my recently acquired Diplomat Aero mechanical pencil.

diplomat aero mechanical pencil
Diplomat Aero Mechanical Pencil
Diplomat are a German (and French?) writing instrument manufacturer with a lineage going back to 1922. Their website says this about the Aero, “Smooth lines, a streamlined body. Feel the legacy of the Zeppelin and give height to your narratives.” Fair enough. Now for those of you not familiar with Zeppelin, they are not referring to the Stairway to Heaven but rather to the lighter-than-air rigid airships of the early/mid 1900’s, the lumbering behemoths of the sky. The Zeppelin company of Germany were the most well-known of the manufacturers, and Zeppelin became a generic term for all airships, whether made by Zeppelin themselves or not.
USS Los Angeles over Manhattan, New York, 1930
Right then, on with the review. Diplomat certainly do not skimp on the packaging. There is an outer cardboard box and an inner heavy card and metal presentation box. I say card and metal because the box is very heavy sturdy card but its covering sleeve is aluminium. The sleeve wraps around the box but does not have a fully enclosed base. Very nice indeed, but a little fiddly to operate. Inside the presentation box itself there is a plush padded base to hold your writing instrument, and beneath that base is the usual storage compartment for the instruction booklets, etc.

Box and metal wrap around sleeve
My Aero pencil came supplied with two spare ink cartridges, but no spare lead refills :)
So, having got the Diplomat Aero mechanical pencil out of its hanger box, it certainly is a behemoth - 141mm long, 15mm diameter at the centre and weighing in at 44 grams. Whilst it is a bit of a monster, the semi-round tapering grooves and body shape definitely give it a smooth aerodynamic look, so it is an agile monster. As you can see, I ordered my Aero in the orange colour, another pencil in the sort of orange that gets Dutch hearts a-pounding and temperatures rising. Perhaps I’ve got a subconscious orange thing going on at the moment.
diplomat aero pencil

In the hand the Aero feels like it looks – big, heavy and substantial. There is no specific grip zone or enhancements although the grooves in the body do aid grip and make holding the Aero a very tactile experience. The lead sleeve on the Aero mechanical pencil is a small cone and it is not retractable so this is a pencil for writing. Obviously this pencil suits those who like a wide grip, as the likely grip area is in the 10 – 12mm diameter sort of range. I think given its size, the weight and slightly top-heavy balance of the Aero are about right. Any lesser weight could run the risk of feeling a bit incongruous. On the other hand, the weight, size and bare grip could become a bit fatiguing if used for a long period.

The pocket clip is a rather classy two piece construction, as pictured below. It is long and substantial looking, and quite firm, possibly a bit too firm for regular clipping to papers, but you certainly won’t lose it if clipped to a shirt or jacket pocket. The conical lead sleeve isn’t too likely to cause a problem in such a pocket.
diplomat aero pocket clip
aero pocket clip construction

The Aero mechanical pencil is a twist action ratchet mechanism. You twist the top half of the pencil body about a quarter turn clockwise to activate the lead advance mechanism, and then it springs back. Ten activations will get you 9mm of 0.7mm lead, which is the only lead size currently offered in the Aero. Advancing the lead can be done single-handed but is basically a two handed operation. Either way it will interrupt your writing more than a push top mechanism. To refill the lead you twist the top half of the body anti-clockwise and unscrew it, then pull the end cap off to access the lead magazine.
diplomat aero pencil refill process
Diplomat Aero mechanical pencil refill
There is also a small eraser, which you find by pulling the top half of the body off. So that’s twist left, twist right and pull. Every direction does something.
diplomat aero pencil eraser

The markings on the pencil are plain, simple and obvious. I like them. My only comment would be that it would be good to have the model name Aero in there too.
The Diplomat logo on pencil top cap
•    Best Points – Aesthetic appeal. Many writing instruments claim to be inspired by something. I think this one does justice to its claim.
•    Not So Good Points – Size will not suit everyone. Not much else really considering what type of mechanical pencil it is.
•    Price Range – High, but not stratospheric.
•    Does this pencil make it into the Top 5? – Part of me said Yes, and part of me said No. It was a hard decision, but when I went and re-read my rules and discussion about ‘My Top 5’ the answer became clear. No.
Dimensions – Length   141mm, diameter 15 at widest point. Balance point about 80mm up from the tip.

At the beginning of this post I mentioned a sentimental aspect to this pencil, which is my grandmother. As a working class, thirteen year old girl in London during World War 1, there was no time for luxuries like school, so during the day my grandmother kept house for her widowed father and brothers, and at night she went to work in a munitions factory, making bullets and "little bombs the soldiers threw by hand". Many, many, decades later, and having emigrated to the other side of the world, she still vividly remembered the Zeppelins over London, her fear of being bombed in the factory, and that night in 1916 when the first Zeppelin was shot down. Like thousands of others she ran into the street, cheering as the flaming Zeppelin lit up the sky and drifted, gloriously, oh so slowly to the ground. She later much regretted her joy at the death of its crew.

Diplomat Aero, the instant I took it out of the box, I really did feel the legacy of the Zeppelin. Thanks for the trip down Memory Lane.

Friday, February 01, 2019

13th Birthday Giveaway

Hmmm, it's my birthday and I'm giving you presents? It's an upside down world :)

13 is a bit of a strange number, so for this Giveaway I have two mechanical pencils which are a little bit strange. Both of them are new and unused (apart from opening up for this photoshoot), and were sent to me by Cult Pens quite a long time ago. So even though they don't know it, they are helping the birthday celebrations.

First is the Troika Construction Graphite, nice and bright in yellow. It is a 0.7mm mechanical pencil and its unusual features are a capacitive stylus top for touchscreen work, and scale rulers printed on the body - 1/20, 1/50 and 1/100m and 1/1 inches.
Just scaling out the new extension to the west wing

Second is the Cleo Skribent Messograf. This is definitely one of the strangest beasts in production - a mechanical pencil with vernier calipers. The Messograf features calipers, ruler, tyre depth gauge and screw thread scale.The swiss army knife of pencils? 

For this giveaway I am dispensing with the usual leave a comment process. To enter this giveaway you simply email me direct. My address is in the sidebar "About Me" 'View My Complete Profile'. After a day or two, or when a reasonable number of people have emailed, I will simply select a winner at random, and contact them. Quick and easy.

UPDATE - Thanks to everyone who entered, but the Giveaway is now closed. We have a winner - "Carl, Finnish woodworker and CAD Viking".